Aston Villa boss Dean Smith has said that he is hopeful of keeping his side in the Premier League this season after seeing his players impress despite losing to Manchester City in the EFL Cup final.
Villa were pegged back in a quick ten-minute spell early on in the first half at Wembley, with Sergio Aguero and Rodri handing City a firm advantage.
However, Villa got back into it with Mbwana Samatta’s header just before the break and they continued to pose a threat to City after the break.
That pressure almost told when Bjorn Engels’ header late on was saved brilliantly onto the post by Claudio Bravo.
Speaking in a press conference after the game, Smith revealed his pride at his players’ display.
“It’s a mountain to climb when Man City go up,” the manager said. “You have to be patient and disciplined. I told the lads I am proud of them. We went toe-to-toe.
“We asked questions today. We all know that was a goal-kick [before Rodri’s goal] but we had a corner to defend and we should have done it better.
“We were playing against a top team and we had to defend well. There was never any sense of a backward step and this pleased me more than anything.”
Asked about his side’s performance in general, Smith continued: “The performance level is what it should be and we got a reaction from the players.
“The concentration goes to the Premier League and if we play like that we will get out of it. The players will take an awful lot of pride from that, no player wants to go out ever and play poorly.
“They did that last week and they got a reminder from me. I was pleased with that reaction.”
It was a tough weekend for Villa with fellow Premier League strugglers Norwich, Watford and West Ham all winning.
Villa return to action next Monday when they host Leicester, who are without a win in five after their defeat to the Canaries.